Art Basel, the world’s largest art fair, will open an online exhibition Friday night to make up for the cancellation of its Hong Kong show due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. More than 90 per cent of exhibitors from the scrapped Art Basel Hong Kong event have joined the move online, with over half of the participants having their own exhibition spaces in Asia. Collectors and dealers can visit the online viewing rooms via Art Basel’s website and mobile app starting from 6:00pm Hong Kong time Friday until March 25, where they can see more than 2,000 artworks from 235 galleries in 31 countries and regions. The total value of the exhibits is around US$270 million. “It’s truly exciting to see the wide range of approaches galleries have taken in their Online Viewing Room from solo booths for emerging artists to viewing rooms dedicated to significant work by iconic historical artists,” said Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel. “It is encouraging in such tumultuous times to see so many galleries committed to displaying work of premiere quality.” Art Basel Hong Kong called off over coronavirus fears The move online took place a month after Art Basel announced the cancellation of its Hong Kong show, the city’s biggest art fair, which was scheduled to take place from March 19 to March 21. After the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, ravaged mainland China starting in January and continued to spread to Hong Kong, Japan and the rest of the world, the fair organiser announced the cancellation on February 6, citing concerns for the health of visitors and staff as well as severe travel and logistical challenges in getting artworks to the show. The online exhibition enables art lovers to click to enter any online viewing room and experience the artwork through pictures, videos, and sounds. All works are listed with the usual information as well as prices for those thinking about buying. The event has already received positive feedback from visitors and galleries alike during the VIP previews on Wednesday and Thursday despite the fact that the site was down for about 25 minutes, according to ArtNews . To be sure, exhibiting and selling art online is nothing new. Well-known galleries such as David Zwirner and Gagosian were some of the first to offer online or virtual viewing rooms as early as 2017. Singaporean bookstore chain Popular closes all 16 branches across Hong Kong Chinese gallery operators are also considering opening virtual viewing rooms to cushion the impact of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Chinese art news platform Arton.net after the Art Basel Hong Kong cancellation. While online has the advantage of tapping into new networks of collectors located in areas not served by physical spaces, there is still ongoing debate over how effective web-based viewing rooms can be compared with physical galleries given that buying art is considered a unique, and sometimes costly, experience. “While nothing can replace the experience of seeing art in person, we hope that this initiative can bring some support and visibility to all the galleries and their artists affected by the cancellation of our March show,” said Adeline Ooi, Asia director for Art Basel. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.